Nine years ago, I was sitting at my office desk when the phone rang. It was Rick, who said he was in the hospital in Iron Mountain, Michigan, eight hours away. He had been hit by a car while riding his bike on a business trip in the Upper Peninsula.
Rick's a good rider, a former racer. He's had spills and crashes before -- some serious, some far worse than this accident. It can happen to anyone -- stopping too quickly, a tire blows out, a skid on something slippery or rocky, a crash with several riders, hitting a stone the wrong way.
But this was different. This time, it wasn't anything to do with chance. A driver turned left, crossing his lane, right in front of him, as he came down a hill -- with the right of way. Someone who wasn't looking or thinking or paying attention. He went over the hood of the car, shattering the windshield. It wasn't good -- but it could have been fatal. I swear, he has nine lives. I hope more.
That's why, in the cold, pouring rain -- 59 degrees that felt like 49 -- Rick and a host of other cyclists, participated in the Ride of Silence.
This annual event -- held worldwide on the third Wednesday in May -- is to honor bicyclists who have been killed or injured by drivers.
The group left the MSU campus and rode down the main east-west artery to the state capitol, where there was a program on the capitol steps.
There should have been media or legislators to greet them, to support them. People who can make a difference, tell their story. Perhaps they were at the start of the ride, but no one but a group of intrepid riders and several policemen -- some who rode bikes, others who accompanied them by car -- came to the capitol.
It's a shame. Media and legislators would have heard about Mason Barker -- an MSU triathlete who two-and-a-half years ago was hit by a car on a country road and was in a coma for five months. He is a bit of a miracle, recovering slowly -- very slowly. But recovering.
They didn't hear about my friend Jim DeLine, but they could have. You'd never know it to see him now, more than two decades later, but he, too, was hit by a car while riding.
They didn't hear about a lot of people -- but I would bet that every single person on those steps knew someone -- or knew of someone -- who had been on the wrong side of a car.
It's very easy for us all to get frustrated when we see riders "slowing down the traffic." We want to get where we are going as quickly as we can, and sometimes -- in our gas-guzzling cars -- we crowd them too closely. Some even try to push the envelope, saying they don't belong on the road.
And yet, on their healthy, eco-friendly vehicles, bicyclists have as much right to the road as the drivers. In fact, they have the right of way.
We all need to remember that.
I can't keep Rick off a bike. The fact that my heart sticks in my throat every time he rides is something I have to deal with, because to even suggest he not ride would be as cruel as locking a person in a tower. But I can ask everyone to think of Rick and every other rider when they see a cyclist -- and share the road.
(Note: Over on my book blog, Chopsticks and String, a look on another book about World War II -- the wonderful novel, "Sarah's Key.")
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